Australian police monitor two Indonesian airline pilots, worried they're drawn to ISIS

Tommy Abu Alfatih in front of the Sydney Opera House in August 2014. Image: Facebook

An intelligence report that appears to have been leaked from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) reveals efforts to monitor two Indonesian commercial pilots officers believe are “likely being influenced” by terror group ISIS and may pose an international security threat.

The Intercept obtained a copy of an AFP operational intelligence report from March 2015 which identifies two Indonesian pilots with “possible extremist persuasions”.

The report highlights the obvious risks associated with commercial pilots being drawn to the ISIS cause. It also notes one of the pilots, Tommy Abu Alfatih (also known as Tomi Hendratno), visited Australia last year.

The AFP would not confirm or deny the report’s authenticity, saying it “does not comment on matters of intelligence” but adding it “maintains strong relationships with its domestic and foreign law enforcement partners to ensure the ongoing safety of Australians both within Australia and abroad.”

Hendratno’s Facebook page has a photo of him standing in front of the Opera House in Sydney last August. Other photos posted to his profile include some themes sympathetic to the ISIS cause, including one showing a computer prompt that says: “Democracy is crashed! Install Khalifah?” with the mouse pointer hovering over the OK button.

Hendratno graduated from an Indonesian flight school in 1999 and worked for the Indonesian Navy as a pilot. He is currently employed by international airline, PremiAir, based in Indonesia. The report, which the AFP has not confirmed as authentic, says:

“According to his posts, Tommy Abu Alfatih displays a strong nationalist perspective. Posted images are indicative of his trips around the world — most likely as a pilot — including to Australia, Europe, Middle East and the United States, the latter being on 17 February 2014. By mid-2014 his postings afforded increased attention to the grievances of the plight of Muslims across the world. By December 2014, pro-IS material surfaced.

Hendratno’s Facebook friends list is a who’s who of pilots and air crew from a range of aviation and military organisations, likely amassed through years of flying experience.

It includes individuals from AirAsia, Air new Plymouth, Enggang Air Services, Kalstar Aviation, Garuda, Global Aviasi, Lion Air, Sriwijaya Air, Tiger Airways, Wings Air.

The report says his friends list also shows connections with Air Navy Indonesia, military pilots and POLRI officers.

The other pilot, Ridwan Ahmad Al Indonesiy alias Ridwan Agustin, a “likely” employee of AirAsia Indonesia, is now reportedly living in the ISIS-held city of Raqqa in eastern Syria.

The report says Agustin’s social media activity began changing from September last year, suggesting a likely progression to radicalisation:

“Source information indicated a change in Ridwan Agustin’s posts evident from September 2014, wherein he started posting material indicative of support to IS. At this time, his online network had expanded to also include interaction with another Indonesian pilot Tommy Abu Alfatih, who ‘liked’ Ridwan’s postings relating to IS.”

Agustin reportedly posted comments on the Facebook page of Heri Kustyanto alias Abu Azzam Qaswarah, a possible affiliate of Southeast Asian militant terror group Jemaah Islamiyah.

The document says Kustyanto is “probably in Syria or Iraq fighting with IS”.

“Kustyanto’s profile content openly shows his involvement in a conflict with regular postings of personal photographs with weaponry. His friends’ list also indicates a strong affiliation with extremist elements including IS and Indonesian terrorist groups. His online network includes contacts from Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, United Kingdom, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Although it isn’t clear whether Agustin is currently employed as a pilot, the report says he would still possess requisite skills to fly and together with his wife’s previous employment, would have current contacts within the aviation industry.

The same can be said of Hendratno, however, the report assesses he is still working for PremiAir.

The Intercept says the report was distributed to security agencies in Jordan, London, Turkey and the US and the European Union’s law enforcement agency Europol.

It says pilots, air crew and others with access to and within the aviation environment pose obvious threats if they become radicalised because their “access and knowledge of security and safety regimes” gives them the ability to attempt attacks like those seen in past global events.

The report also highlighted a recent edition of the Al Qaeda online magazine Inspire actively encouraged aviation-inspired attacks.

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